The much anticipated highlight of the week was a deep sea fishing trip. I had never done anything like it! A chartered boat took us 30 miles out to sea. It was about an hour ride, going 25 mph. Land quickly disappeared, and the darkness of early morning quickly changed from dark blue waters to increasing heat of the sun rays and clean bright blue waters.
The expert captain and first mate grew up fishing the area and knew every spot the fish would be. They expertly tied lines and passed out fresh bait. We got a few nibbles and some small fish. Our weighted lines dropped to the bottom of the ocean 100 feet below. Those small fish became bait and our captain maneuvered us to a new location for some different fish. If we did not quickly get bites, we reeled our lines in and moved again. After a few locations we started getting some nice sized fish.
I have never caught anything bigger than river trout. These fish quickly went to the bait moments after you dropped in. You tug back against their bites and suddenly your lines bends into the water, almost in half. The line whizzes as the fish runs with their snack. They take a break and you reel in fast, pulling up. Back and forth, the fish fights, and you fight back. It’s an intense arm, back and ab work out! As soon as the fish is near the surface the first mate was ready to hook them in.
In between catches, we took breaks to eat a sandwich or watch each other reel in their catches. The waves were about 8 feet tall. The sun got hot. The 12 year old had a few good catches almost pull her into the ocean so she napped off the rest of the day on some bean bags. If you were not ready, the rolling deck on the 40 ft boat would knock you over. Yet another good full body workout just standing.
Tired out and with some impressive catches, we headed back to land lounging in the afternoon sun and spray of the waves.
We got back to our inlet. Only to meet the Coast Guard….
There are different types of rest. Today we are often encouraged to practice self-care. And sometimes that is luxurious. Sometimes that is physically relaxing. But rest is not just about the body but also the mind. We must learn to practice the art of leisure. To be whole in appreciating the now.
“Leisure draws its vitality from affirmation. It is not the same as non-activity, nor is it identical with tranquility; it is not even the same as inward tranquility. Rather, it is like the tranquil silence of lovers, which draws its strength from concord.”
Everyone is well aware of the unprecedented times (COVID19) and the amount of upheaval that came into our lives in parallel. Politics are more volatile than any our older relatives remember. There are mistrust and unease. Additional work comes in the form of extra computer work, loneliness, mental exhaustion from an overhaul of our lives, families learning to be together, teaching, and working.
But the point of this is that we needed leisure. My family was lucky enough to visit relatives in Mrytle Beach. I love love love the ocean. When we were little our parents would take us to a quainte family town in Old Orcard Beach, Maine. We would be awake with the sun, much to our parents delight😉 We hauled our beach gear to set up the best spot. Mom packed a cooler with lunch and snacks, and we never once came back inside. Hours spent surfing the waves, building snadcastles, finding starfish, going for walks and napping.
This trip felt like a recreation of that childhood memory for me. With new family twists! Many hours were spent boogie boarding with our 12 yr old. But I spent some quiet mornings to myself walking on the beach with a coffee, going for a run, or saying some prayers. The baby was overstimulated by the amount of sand she ate so her hours on the beach were shorter and followed by long naps inside. It was fun seeing her become more curious and brave by the end of the week. She wanted to crawl right into the waves. And she waves at every passing stranger as if she were the mayor of the beach.
And that is how you spell it in a New England accent.
I wait all year for Labor Day. Mostly so that when I shout “Labor Day is OV-ER!” ala Kevin Hart, it makes more sense.
I think most people like the extra day off for a final celebration of summer. And yes, the weather has started to cool, especially in the northern states. The scent of pumpkin spice latte candles and sweatha weatha are in the air.
But wait…there are still a few days left of summer. And before you pack away all your pretty hot girl summer clothes, you might yet be surprised by an Indian Summer.
I did make a carrot cake. Which looks like pumpkin bread, and possibly has the same seasonings, but has delectable cream cheese frosting. I used to ask for carrot cake on my birthday as a kid. Is that weird? Possibly connected to the fact that I was a book worm and needed more carrots to see my books when I was reading after lights out in our house.
I had some thoughts and maybe slight frustrations about the Church’s conversation surrounding marriage and divorce. Everyone’s experience may be different, but I believe there are many crucial elements that are left out of the conversation, which leaves spouses feeling they lack support from the Church.
The Church strives to assist people in understanding the calling to marriage. The Church wants to fight against a culture of divorce. But I think if we understand today’s culture, people do not want a marriage to fail, so they do not get married in the first place. No one wants to be divorced! Current culture often uses legal divorces to make money at the expense of the already fragile individuals. So the Church can help those who have been divorced by first building a future culture surrounding the vocation of marriage.
Before making divorce, or in the Church an annulment so strict, let’s make sure that people understand what they need to be ready for marriage, both as an individual and a couple. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), to be married is an intense calling with values that can only be attained with the help of God. One of my favorite marriage quotes, often misquoted, from the bible is from Ephesians 5: 25 and 28-29.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; and
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourished and cherished it, even as the Lord the Church:
While both men and women have their calling within the marriage…that in itself is a huge calling! Both are responsible for the sanctity of the marriage, and it should reflect God’s relationship with us. It almost makes it sound impossible, but for the grace of God, to be married.
I also feel the Church has a deep chasm to cross when understanding the sexuality of man. The Theology of the Body was revolutionary because it was the first extensive time the Church committed to helping understand the Catholic teachings on the human body and the sexual aspect. For a long time, and even still now, sexuality was something to be suppressed and controlled. With the sexual revolution during the time Pope JPII wrote Theology of the Body, there was a very selfish view of sexuality. But people were willing to be open to discussing it and acknowledge it as a huge reason we even exist. Unfortunately, my parents did not feel comfortable translating any theology they had learned to teach their children. We never even discussed sexuality from a scientific perspective. And somehow, we had nine siblings! When you ask any teacher in the Church about the questions many of us face, the answers always seem canned. We crave real discussion. And I am not sure the clergy of the Church has the experience to speak to it. They have struggled with a lack of understanding and perversion of sexual nature, as seen during the Sex Scandals. We need laypeople of the Church, who have experienced living in today’s culture and perhaps struggled with their own sins, to develop further teaching on this theology.
When the Church first developed their theology, Augustine was strict because he personally struggled with his chastity! People were married for political gain as soon as they hit puberty. In the not so distant past, people were married younger because they were able to obtain an education, home, and job to support married life. Now people have to wait until they are almost past their childbearing years before they can afford marriage and family. It cannot be natural to wait until your mid 30’s acknowledges your sexual nature. These are all issues addressed in encyclicals. Let’s find a way to bring it into the marriage preparation as well as our catechesis. A puritan attitude towards sexuality will only create the issues we face today.
Sex is natural, it is beautiful, and we need to understand it to treat it in the right hierarchy, acknowledging first that the human person must be respected.
After leaving home, it was indeed a struggle to connect with my faith as I traveled the world in the military. When I met someone and thought I was ready for marriage, I felt I had reached the most adult of my sacraments and was excited to live out the vows. Due to aspects of military jobs, a lot of the preparation was provided through distance learning. I am grateful that it is available because I might not have been able to get married in the military if that wasn’t an option. It did not, however, help us get to know one another, nor did any of the educators know us well enough to guide or decisions. Ultimately, I enabled my husband through the marriage prep and shortly after being married found that he did not have the slightest idea or desire of being married, as Catholics understand marriage. In my case, after a few years of something I would not say was ever a marriage, I was grateful for a mutual divorce that did not put us more in debt or cause any more ugly pain than was already present. I am currently working with my parish to go through an annulment.
Along with working toward better marriage preparation, I hope to use my abilities as a working mother to encourage businesses and culture in social responsibility; to understand the need for work-life balance because their employees need to take care of their family. Respect employees as people with lives and families outside of work, both mothers and fathers.
The oldest of a family of ten siblings, I was physically busy, helping mom run the show (babysitting, cooking, chauffeuring etc.). I highly valued my free time. Or rather, I tried to create as much free time as I could. When I was little, one time I did what any sensible child does when they have had it, I tried to run away. This consisted of: having packing some snacks in a small backpack, looking out my back second-story window around 10pm, regard the moonlight scene of drifted snow in my backyard, and decide it was cold and I was tired. As I grew older, I took advantage of the acres of unexplored forest in my backyard. I did not realize this until recently, but a lot of New Hampshire is massive land conservations. I would tell my mom I was going hiking, and disappear into the woods for hours, until close to dinner time. If it was Saturday, it might be an all-day excursion.
I still have a great love for nature. I think our Dad instilled the appreciation in us. He had to take all of the kids out of the house on a Sunday afternoon so mom could have an hour of sanity by herself! For my current sanity, I need to break away from gray cubicles designed in the 80s, artificial lights, monitors and screens, and even our beautiful home. Is it not odd how working at home because of the pandemic is at once enjoyable but also taints your lovely place with a blurred line between work and home? (Again another topic I am sure many have been trying to wrap their minds around).
Currently, the state of Ohio where we are living is quaint farmland( a fraction of it Amish), and at least some slight upheavals that could be recognized as hills and conservations that have hiking trails which all of the sate flocks to on the weekend. It does not offer quite the freedom of solitude and wild beauty I sometimes miss, but I am grateful that it is there. I can bring the dogs to a few places that are more remote or at least during the week less crowded. We run the trails to increase our agility and strength and free a bit of our wild spirits.
It does get pretty warm, to a Yankee girl, as we live right on the line between a humid southern climate and some of the effects of the Great Lakes to the north of us. The summers start early, or is that spring? And the fall weather sets in much later than I feel I would be ready for crisp and cold days. We do experience all four seasons. During these hot months, I begin to understand why a southern lifestyle is slower-paced and less frantic to accomplish a long to-do list. If you must do something, ideally, it is better before the sun gets to high in the sky. And if you got one thing done, welp, time for a glass of wine!
Now that we own an old farmhouse, there is a to-do list just for the house and it is another way to get outside. We replaced the HVAC system, which was a financial blow after buying the home a little more than a year ago. But it will be updated for the next owners, and in the meantime, hopefully, it helps to heat in a more cost-efficient manner this winter! I painted the wrap-around front deck earlier in the summer.
And we have this large barn, which the previous owner had recently raised. The wood was untreated and in desperate need of some form of sealant. So the big project was to paint the barn. The man bought a paint sprayer, which was very worth it. And almost every Saturday, we knew we would be painting the barn and mowing the lawn. We surprisingly only went through a few 5 gal. buckets of a redwood tone stain.
And now we have completed it. It was physically, a significant accomplishment for our project list. And now I think we will have some free Saturdays the rest of the summer and we can find ways to cool off instead of beating the heat to win on our “to do” list.
Memories are a funny thing. When I hear the word memory, I think of the song from the musical “Cats.” But perhaps that is because I love music and that song has a special memory attached to it. We may not remember every detail of time, so our brain fills in certain details of the memory based on what we know about the circumstances or how we felt. I always wondered why we could not remember our very first few years. Were our brains not fully developed (of course not)? Was it so awful that we just erased it (just kidding)? I am sure there is excellent scientific research that I could internet search through Google Scholar, which would give a complete understanding of why we cannot remember.
When we do have a first memory, the lack of prior memory makes it seem precious. The thesis of a paper, or the first sentence of a book, contains the purpose and outline. Perhaps because I did not put much thought into my first sentence, you may gather that I am writing this for amusement. But what I also mean is that memories can be ironic. When looking back on my memories, I begin to see patterns taking shape into who I am as a person today, and I hope it lends guidance onto where I hope to grow.
My first memory is of an early, crisp, cold December morning. The pale grey light reflects the weak winter sun against snow and clouds. The light attempts to shine through large old windows, with the tinge of cold coming through the glass panes. In the living room inside, little children quietly play on a big braided oval rug. Mom and Dad must be having coffee and a peaceful morning moment. It is St.Nicholas’ day. Traditionally children hung their stockings or shoes out in the hope that the saint would leave small treats. Chocolate coins in gold foil, and tangerines, and maybe a special Disney toothpaste all your own! I remember as the spoils lay across the rug, a few feet away was a little wooden train track. The colorful cars connected by magnets and little wooden trees and houses created scenery around the tracks.
I also remember that the day before was the day my brother John passed away. He was four years old. So I would have been five. We knew that St. Nicholas day was different.
I feel as though that were my first memory. That is what pops into mind when I try to recall in chronological order. But maybe it has the most impact on my young mind. Because I have other memories that came before. I remember that day before St Nicholas. John had leukemia, a form of lung cancer. Mom and Dad had converted the front sitting room into a guest room and had John sleep there because it was easier to care for him. It was right by the kitchen on one side and near the foot of the stairs to the bedroom and the living room where we did some homeschooling on the other side. There were often nurses that came to visit and specialized medical equipment to place near the bed. I remember checking the lump on John’s back after bath one time. He was often tired. He lost all his hair during chemo treatment. I remember going with John and Dad to one of his treatments at Boston children’s hospital. The hospital had big colorful flowers painted on the walls, and it looked like a cheery place, but it was so quiet. There were times when the Make a Wish Foundation brought things over for the family that John asked for, probably with the help of Mom and Dad’s ideas. A fancy camping set with a 12-person tent, sleeping bags and mats, and the classic blue metal camp pots and pans with a portable gas stove.
We got a swing set and play pirate ship. The swing was all piles of lumber until one of the maintenance guys from Dad’s college work came to our house to put it together. There was a tower with a slide and monkey rings, two swings, a swinging bench, and a see-saw. The pirate ship was one of those plastic Little Tykes play areas. We had a sandbox as well with Giant metal Tonka trucks that Dad played with when he was a kid. We used to play knights and pirates complete with plastic armor and swords and helmets. They always smelled funny because of the plastic. John was always sweet and very generous when we played.
The family drove out to see Dad’s family in Dane, Wisconsin. The drive was almost twenty-two hours, but I do not remember them at all as a little kid. Grandma and Grandpa had a family farm, but their house was one Grandma wanted away from the farm at the top of a neighborhood on a hill. The basement was the place to hang out with a brick patio on the back where the adults liked to drink and grill. There was a pool table, but we didn’t try that until we got older. The most standout item to a little kid was a giant stuffed bright green frog that we used to lay on. We had a couple of older cousins that would come and play with us while all the adults caught up. We went out for an Easter and a Christmas time when we were young and again during the summertime a few years later.
Some of those memories may have been before or after that St. Nicholas day. The day before St. Nicholas day I don’t remember exactly where I was. Either in the bedroom with John or maybe reading in the living room. A plumber was working on the kitchen sink that morning. It was later in the morning; Mom came out and broke down crying in the kitchen. The plumber helped her call Dad. Before John died, he seemed peaceful, and he said, “I see the angels.” One can only hope that someone that young and innocent did see the angels because he must have become one of them. My family prays to John every day after family prayers. My Dad especially reminded us of that. One only hopes that he is helping us from heaven.
As I am older now, I look back and realize that Mom must have been around twenty-five when that happened. I cannot even imagine how that must have felt. The financial stress and time spent in the hospital. The uncertainty and having to take care of other small children and still make the future hopeful. Dealing with the sorrow must have been incredibly painful, and I don’t know if Mom ever had the time or maybe did not know how to deal with it fully. She was busy with little children at home. And she had small children for many years after that, since we total nine siblings now. We still say ten siblings because we count John.
Dad remained busy working for the small catholic college, Magdalen College. Both he and mom went to school there a few years apart from one another. They both stayed in the area after graduating, Dad working business for the college and mom working in finance in a bank. They have a great picture of them dating. They are at the seacoast in new England, sitting on a granite rock in off the beach with the ocean behind them. The sun is setting, and bathes them in a golden light. Mom’s hair is blowing the breeze, and Dad has his arms hugged around her. Mom has a bright red windbreaker on, and as usual, Dad has on something Navy blue. Probably from Land’s End. Mom always said they didn’t get to know each other that well when dating. One of their good friends Ms. N. was with them often, and I believe she took that picture for them. Ms. N comes into some of my later memories as she became a professor at the school I attended.
I am not joking when I write that we all need positive practices, I am slightly joking when I say unprecedented times. I do not joke about the hardships that people are going through as we deal with polarizing politics or personal tragedies and loss. We have some people who have died from a pandemic. We have some people who have lost jobs. Some people feel lost, adapting to a new routine with their family at home or working at home.
We still have our daily ups and downs. For me I am adapting to being the mother of a 9 month old happy mischievous baby girl. I love her. And sometimes I hate the responsibility of being a mother. But you cannot undo motherhood. I would not want to. But I have to struggle with the change of life in my own way of living and thinking. I must understand my personal traumas and heal them as best as I can without passing on those traumas to my daughter. I must learn courage to show my weaknesses and also the joy of finding new strengths.
I am so grateful to have a good job that pays that provides necessities and even enjoyments for my little family. I am able to work from home at this time which is quite different from all my logistics and warehouse jobs of the past several years. There is some ease of flexibility in the mornings and afternoons. No rush of getting out the door and remembering to pack everything for the baby and myself as we go through our days in different locations. But it is more difficult to maintain the disciplined habits that separate, and keep happy and healthy, your work and home life.
I also long for a job that is completely different. Active. Badass. But this may create other issues for my family with the types of hours or travel involved. It would be exciting. I would probably love my job. But would it have a negative impact on my home life our my relationships?
Past the philosphical thoughts I try to keep doing the practical positive actions:
Moving my body from my computer to stretch and fuel with good foods.
Continued enjoyment of weightlifting and running or hiking outdoors.
Planning good dinners for our family dinner time.
Learning how to start a blog as a new hobby that might rekindle my love of journaling. A chance to clear the cobwebs from my mind, clarify thoughts, solidify plans.
I started a garden. I am excited to replicate a hobby I learned from my Dad. He learned to enjoy it as a farm boy in Wisconsin and when he became a business man, it was a form of being in nature and working in a different and enjoyable way. Do not resent having to water plants every day and get excited about the anticipated fruits of labor….literal fruits!
Enjoying petting and playing with my husky, and doberman, and maine coone, and bombay. Yes two dogs and two cats.
And one baby. Trying to acknowledge and move past my insecurity or frustrations with motherhood and remember that she will only be this little, learning, beautiful stage of life for a short while. And I will not have these moments again. I hope I remember them.